Opinion by Matt S.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sony’s E3 show was the most impressive this year. It wasn’t just for the quality of the games that it had to show off. It was the the sheer quantity as well.
Where the other businesses putting on shows padded out the presentation with skits, celebrity appearances and humour, Sony’s executives couldn’t get off the stage quick enough in the nearly 90-minute presentation. Where the other publishers had concept trailers and gameplay, showing us the kind of experience that the were hoping to deliver in the end, Sony’s stuff was almost wall-to-wall of pure gameplay. It was impressive to see just how much raw effort and money Sony was throwing at its console and games. It’s really no wonder that the console has had such a leadership position this generation.
And yet, as I was watching, I could not help but be slightly disappointed by it all. It wasn’t that I was not looking forward to the games, because I really am; Detroit is from David Cage and I love that man’s work. Resident Evil VII finally has me interested in Resident Evil again. Kojima’s teaser had me spellbound, and we finally got a release date for The Last Guardian, and it’s this year, to boot. The VR stuff looks interesting, and I loved the setting Sony used; a console hall with a live orchestra is such a purely classy way of doing things that I was sold on Sony’s vision for its games from the outset.
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What actually disappointed me, though, was the lack of genuine variety in what Sony brought to its big show. Game after game was gunning for photorealistic graphics, heavy, violent action, and visceral experiences. In the last couple of years Sony has made a big deal of it’s “B-tier” games, its independent developer partners, and its Japanese heritage, and almost none of that was on show in this year’s show. Even the games that came from Japanese developers were heavily westernised in order to appeal to a global, blockbuster market. And, as a result, as exciting as the 90-minute show was, it was also quite draining, as there was rarely relief from the monotony that has become standard for blockbusters.
It’s not like Sony lacks for this content, either. One of the absolute highlights of the show to date is Bound, a small game being developed with the assistance of Sony Santa Monica, and it’s a game about ballet and a young woman’s memories in a delightfully minimalist and abstract world. Sega has one of its best years ahead as a partner to Sony, with Hatsune Miku VR, Persona 5 and Yakuza all exclusive to Sony platforms. It would have been so easy to get Sega up there to show off something of Persona 5. Koei Tecmo has a mountain of very Japanese games on the way that are going to be in deep demand for that particular community.
And where the heck was Gravity Rush? It got a second-long show in a montage right at the end, despite being, effortlessly, the most exciting upcoming game that doesn’t involve a giant dog/griffin thing.
Now, I can understand why Sony didn’t give screen time to any of this. It has such a significant lineup of AAA games on the way that it needs to sell well, and this is the critical time to get them in front of audiences. It has such a weight of creative indie games and titles from Japan that it would have been difficult to narrow it down in any significant way. And, most of the more niche games find their audience without needing time in front of the mainstream – a mainstream that is never going to buy them.
Sony also has to sell people on PlayStation VR this year, as a major new hardware play, and PlayStation VR is a technology that is only going to take off if the masses buy in. As much as I would have loved to see Sony show us just how awesome it will be to party with Hatsune Miku on stage this year, the reality is that Star Wars and Resident Evil are far closer to the “killer apps” that Sony needs a critical mass of people to wants so much that they slap down hardware purchase orders.
Nonetheless, it’s disappointing to see Sony throw together a show that showed less of a desire to promote gaming artistry than Microsoft (which was good enough to get Compulsion Game’s We Happy Few into its show) and even EA (Fe). Sony has, for the longest time, been in lock step with Nintendo as the only two publishers with any interest in this whole games-as-art shtick. And it has been admirable, because not everyone gets along with arthouse games, and it takes a great strength of character to suggest that Entwined or Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is as worthy as a Call of Duty or God of War.
So, again, while I can’t really fault what Sony has done with its E3 show this year, and I do think it has “saved” an otherwise quite disappointing event, in terms of the big announcements, from a purely ideological perspective I am disappointed that the publisher wasn’t pushing its arthouse credentials further. Those games are, ultimately, the reason I love my PlayStation 4 so much, and I think Sony deserves more applause and respect for its investments there than it’s giving itself.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld